Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mid-Life Motherhood: The Myth

I have been thinking for a while of writing a couple of posts reflecting on my experience of mid-life motherhood, starting over with a baby at what in maternal terms is considered an advanced age (forty five). For the record, I haven't been mistaken for Cherub's grandmother yet, though I guess the day will come ...

OK. The myth.

Having a baby late in life keeps you young.

It doesn't. Or, at least, physically it doesn't. It makes you feel old, tired and creaky. There is a reason that the mid-to-late forties is right at the back end of female fertility. Unless you are very fit and very fortunate, pregnancy and mothering a small child is physically more demanding in your forties than it is in your thirties (or, I'm sure, your twenties, though I have no experience of that). It hurts. I have loved nursing all three of my babies, but this time round it gave me muscle and joint aches that I hadn't suffered before. Carrying a baby (both before and after birth) was harder; pushing a stroller uphill harder; buckling a struggling toddler into a car seat harder. You get the picture. Oddly - and blessedly - I found the lost and interrupted sleep easier this time, which given that Cherub has been my worst sleeper is just as well.

When I take Cherub to toddler groups or activities I am almost inevitably the oldest mother there. Generally speaking the age gap isn't too obvious because there are others in their late thirties and early forties, and I (so I'm told) look younger than my almost-49. The more obvious gap is usually in experience, because few have other children older than say five or six. Fortunately the age and experience gap doesn't seem to stop me making new friends among mothers from Cherub's social circle, though there are times when that gap jumps up and hits me and makes me feel old. For example, things I remember that are way before my friends' memory span (old money, the Beatles, England winning the World Cup - I was a sixties child!).

Having said that, I can see that as time goes on, having a relatively young child will help to keep me more active and more engaged with younger people (both children and adults). I will just have to keep remembering to suppress the creaking and groaning as I move.

And of course, although it has been a physical struggle at times, having this gorgeous little person in my life has been a joy, and all the more so because it was one I never expected to encounter. There are still times when I have to pinch myself to believe it. I may feel old and knackered, but at least I am happily old and knackered!


Anonymous said...


Karen E. said...

I actually found the sleep deprivation harder with Ramona. I definitely feel the age gap at times with my younger friends -- when you suddenly realize they have no idea what you're talking about, as it was "before their time." :)

But the "keeps you young" part is true for me in terms of what you mention later in the post -- staying more actively engaged in things that would otherwise be behind me in a certain sense.

Jennifer Gregory Miller said...

Late on commenting on this post, but I am nodding in agreement to everything you say! I'm just plain tired and old....